Travel

Travel Abroad & Re-entry into the United States

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CBP Begins Implementing New US-Visa Requirements (from 2009)

Travel Abroad: Basic Rules

Before leaving the U.S. make sure you have a valid passport and your I-94 or a copy of the front and back of it. The original I-94 is not essential, but you will need the information on it. If it is not available because it is at the Citizenship and Immigration and Services (CIS) or has been lost, you may obtain the information you need from a copy. If you do not have a copy, you will have to fill out a new I-94 at the port of departure. If you are traveling to Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean, see "Exceptions to the Rules" section of this we site.

Before entering your home country you will probably need a valid passport or some other acceptable proof that you are a citizen or legal resident of that country and have the right to return and enter it. Usually the passport is the document that identifies a person as a citizen of a country. It is important to keep your passport valid and to carry it with you when you leave the U.S.

Before entering another country you should contact the country's consulate or embassy and obtain a visa if necessary. One of the basic rights of any country under international law is the ability to determine who may enter its borders, under what conditions and rules they may enter, and how long they may stay. Many things affect whether you need a visa and how long it will take you to receive one. These include, but are not limited to, the purpose of your visit; the relationship between your country and the country you plan to visit; your current visa class or status in the U.S.; your previous visa history with the country you plan to visit. Contact the embassy or consulate of the country you plan to visit before you leave the U.S. in order to save yourself much time, trouble, expense, and disappointment at the border or airport. To obtain the contact information of the embassy of the country where you plan to visit, you may best check embassy web site at: http://www.embassy.org.

Notice

Most temporary visas require that you have a residence abroad which you have no intention of abandoning. In most cases, consular and immigration officers are required by law to deny visas and deny admission to the U.S. to persons whom they believe intend to abandon their residence abroad and remain in the U.S. permanently. In other words, most visa classes require persons to possess "Non-Immigrant Intent." One exception is the H-1B, which permits you to have the intention to remain in the U.S. long-term, even though you hold the temporary status of H-1B. The O-1 also does not require that you have a residence abroad that you have no intention of abandoning. Before you travel, be sure to check with the UCIE staff or with a qualified immigration lawyer.

Re-Entry into the United States: Basic Rules

To reenter the U.S. you must have three things:

  • a valid unexpired passport. (Note: Canadian citizens may use other proof of Canadian citizenship when entering the U.S. from this hemisphere.)
  • a visa document which is valid on and beyond the date you plan to reenter the U.S. and which has been signed and updated, if needed, by the appropriate official. PLEASE NOTE: any time you enter the U.S., you should be prepared to show proof that you have adequate financial support for the remainder of your program (i.e. assistantship award letter, bank statements, etc.). If, however, you need to obtain a new visa stamp while abroad, the UCIE will issue a new document DS-2019 or I-20 that specifically indicates its purpose is for obtaining a new visa stamp.
  • a valid and unexpired visa stamp in your passport that matches the visa document. (PLEASE NOTE: If you are a Canadian citizen, you are not required to obtain a visa stamp in your passport). All visa stamps include a visa type (such as B-1, J-1, F-2, etc.) and an ending date. It is imperative that you read the visa stamp carefully and make sure it is valid for reentry. The visa stamp may be valid for multiple entries or it may be limited to one or two entries. It may be valid for only a few months or for the entire time listed on the I-20, DS-2019, the I-797 Approval Notice or other visa document. The duration of the validity of the visa stamp and the number of entries it permits is, in general, based upon reciprocity with the sending country. That is, the restrictions the U.S. puts on a visa are similar to the restrictions the foreign country puts on the visas of U.S. citizens traveling to that country. Certain visa stamps may have other limitations as well.

Visa Renewal and Revalidation

If you are in an F or J visa classification and will need to obtain a new visa stamp prior to reentry, contact the UCIE at least two weeks before you leave the U.S. for a new visa document (I-20 or DS-2019). This new document will assist you in obtaining a new visa stamp. PLEASE NOTE: You also must be able to show proof that you have adequate financial support for the remainder of your program (i.e. assistantship award letter, bank statements, etc.).

If you are in H or O classification, your first H or O visa stamp must be obtained from a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. If you already have an H or O visa stamp and will need to have that stamp renewed or revalidated, you may do that either at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad, or by sending your passport to the U.S. Department of State Visa Office in Washington, D.C. For information on how to apply for a visa revalidation by mail, call the Visa Office at 202-663-1225 or visit their web site at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en.html

Travel Documents Checklist

The following are some guidelines for checking whether all of your documents are in order for travel.

Visa Class Visa Stamp Visa Document Obtaining the Visa Stamp
F F-1 for principal,
F-2 for spouse and children under 21
I-20 for principal
I-20 for each  family member
Initial stamp and extensions only from a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. Not available in the U.S
J J-2 for spouse and children under 21 DS-2019 for principal; DS-2019 for each family member Initial stamp and extensions only from a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. Not available in the U.S.
H H-1, H-2 or H-3 for principal, H-4 for spouse and children under 21 I-797 Approval Notice for principal, I-797 Approval Notice for family or for principal Initial stamp from a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. Extensions may be obtained from the Department of State Visa Office in Washington, DC, (202) 663-1225
O O-1 for principal, O-3 for spouse and children under 21 I-797 Approval Notice for principal, I-797 Approval Notice for family or for principal Initial stamp from a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. Extensions may be obtained from the Department of State Visa Office in Washington, DC, (202) 663-1225
TN Not necessary for Canadian citizens Approval Notice if an extension has been given in the U.S. I-94 with TN notation for principal. I-94 with TD notation for family. Visa stamps are not necessary for Canadian citizens.

Exceptions to the Rules

Applicants for lawful permanent resident status ("green card")

DO NOT TRAVEL using temporary visa documents such as an I-20, DS-2019, or I-797 Approval Notice or TN documents, even though you still may have these documents in your possession. Once you file an application for permanent residence, any temporary status you may have had is canceled. If it is necessary for you to travel abroad (e.g., family emergency), you must apply for and receive "advance parole" which is special permission to enter the U.S., from the Immigration and Naturalization Service. If you leave the U.S. without advance parole, you will have no legal way to reenter and will have to wait outside the U.S. and complete your permanent residence processing at a U.S. embassy or consulate.

Spouses of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents

DO NOT TRAVEL using temporary visa documents such as an I-20, DS-2019, I-797, or TN documents. Consular and immigration officers generally assume that marriage to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident indicates an intention to live in the U.S. permanently.

Others involved in the "green card" process

DO NOT TRAVEL unless you have discussed your situation with the UCIE or with a qualified immigration lawyer. Certain actions that you take or that others take for you in the green card process can make it difficult or impossible for you to return to the U.S. in a temporary status. These actions include, but are not limited to, filing of labor certification application, immigrant petition based on family relationship, immigrant petition based on employment, or asylum application.

Canadian Citizens

You are not required to carry a passport or a valid visa stamp to reenter the U.S. from Canada, but you must be able to prove Canadian citizenship with other documents, and you must have the appropriate visa document. However, passports and valid visa documents are required to enter or reenter the U.S. from most other countries (as indicated above). When crossing into Canada from the U.S., the I-94 is not taken; it remains in the possession of the Canadian citizen.

Holders of F, J, H and O visa classes

There are exceptions for certain persons who have changed their visa class in the U.S. (for example, the I-94 is marked to show a change from J-1 to F-1 status) for certain kinds of travel. Certain expired F and J visa stamps are considered valid, and for some who have changed visa class, the old visa may be considered to be revalidated and changed to the new class for travel only and solely to "contiguous territory and adjacent islands." Contiguous territory is Canada and Mexico, and adjacent islands are those in the Caribbean (except Cuba). This means that you do not need a new visa stamp to reenter the U.S. after this type of travel. This exception applies only as indicated below and ALL CRITERIA must be met. Furthermore, these exceptions may change as the political relationships between the U.S. and other countries change. Always check on the current status of these provisions before you travel.

There are exceptions for persons who entered the U.S. in H or O class (or who have changed to H or O class) for travel to contiguous territory only, Canada and Mexico. This exception does not include travel to adjacent islands, the Caribbean, and applies only as indicated below and ALL criteria must be met. Furthermore, these exceptions may change as the political relationships between the U.S. and other countries change. Always check on the current status of these provisions before you travel.

Criteria for Provisions Listed Above

  • The time outside the U.S. must be for less than 30 days.
  • You must have in hand and present to the immigration officer a valid unexpired visa document (see above).
  • You must have in hand and present to the immigration officer a valid unexpired passport.
  • You must have maintained F, J, or H class and you must intend to resume this class when you reenter the U.S.
  • You must have a valid I-94 and apply for reentry before the end of the authorized stay.
  • You must not be considered inadmissible to the U.S. under section 212(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and you must not have had your inadmissibility waived under section 212(d)(3)(A) of the INA.

Certain persons are generally not admissible to the U.S. based on one of the grounds of excludability listed in section 212(a) of the INA. To obtain a visa and enter the U.S., these individuals must have this inadmissibility waived. The most frequent example of this at colleges and universities is membership in the Communist Party. When these people apply for a visa such as F, J, or H, the consular officer usually grants a waiver of inadmissibility and makes a notation on the visa page of the passport that reads "212(d)(3)(A)." The notation refers to the section of the INA that gives a consular officer this waiver authority. The letter/number notation in the passport may vary slightly from that stated here. It is important to understand that if any similar notation appears in your passport or on the I-94 card, then the visa extension or revalidation options listed above are not available to you. You must have a proper, valid, unexpired visa stamp to enter the U.S. Do not confuse this with the 212(e) notation that only means that you are subject to the J-1 two-year home residence requirement.

Things to do to Avoid the Problems

Understand the difference between a visa stamp, a visa document, and visa status. A visa stamp is a stamp in your passport that gives you permission to enter the U.S. in a certain visa status. This entry stamp does not tell you how long you have permission to stay in the U.S.; it simply tells you how many times and for how long you have permission to apply for entry into the U.S. in that particular visa category. In order to use a visa stamp (entry stamp), you must have an accompanying visa document. The visa stamp may not be used without the appropriate visa document. The visa document indicates how long you have permission to remain in the U.S., what activities you have permission to pursue, and where you have permission to pursue those activities. The visa document, alone, does not give you permission to enter the U.S., but you must have a valid visa document in order to obtain and use your visa stamp. Visa status is the immigration category you are granted when you are admitted to the U.S. and it is noted on your visa document and on your Form I-94. The visa status noted on your visa document and the visa document itself determines the nature, location, and duration of your authorized activities, as well as your authorized length of stay in the U.S.

If you have more than one visa stamp in your passport, be sure to use the correct one to enter the country. When you reenter the U.S., you are in the class in which you are admitted and which is written on your I-94 card by the Immigration Officer, regardless of what other stamps may be in your passport. For example, if you have a B-1/B-2 tourist stamp and a J-1 stamp and you use the B-1/B-2 stamp to enter the U.S., then you officially present in a tourist visa class, not J-1, even though you may have been in J-1 class before you left. If you enter in the wrong visa class, you cannot work or receive payments in the U.S. until the Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) has changed your visa class back to one that permits work.

Citizen of a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Pilot Program: If you are a citizen of a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Pilot Program, meaning that you are allowed to enter the U.S. as a visitor without first obtaining a visa stamp, be sure that you do not enter the U.S. on this program. If you enter on this program, you will be admitted as a WT or WB and will only be allowed to remain in the U.S. for a maximum of 90 days and will not be eligible for employment and other benefits normally afforded persons in other temporary visa classifications. A WB or WT cannot be changed to another visa status nor can it be extended beyond the 90-day period.

If you go to a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad to get a visa stamp, you must take the proper visa documents. If you do not have the proper document, such as the I-20, DS-2019, or I-797 Approval Notice, the consular officer has no evidence that you are entitled to that visa and cannot issue it. It does not matter that you already may have an old visa stamp in the passport. The old stamp provides no information about your current situation.

Do not attempt to enter the U.S. with an invalid visa stamp or no visa stamp at all. If you fail to get a valid visa stamp and try to enter the U.S. with an expired stamp or with no proper stamp at all, the CIS officer at the port of entry has two choices: to deny you entry and send you back on the next plane; or to call a supervising officer and request permission to let you in without a visa. If, and only if, the supervising officer agrees, you may be admitted. You must pay a fee to cover the cost of this visa waiver request and a record will be made that a visa waiver was given, so that if you again try to reenter the U.S. without a visa you likely will be denied entry. Often this process is completed only after all other passengers have been admitted and it may take several hours.

Do not attempt to enter the U.S. without the proper visa document. If you fail to present a valid visa document, such as an I-20, or DS-2019, and you try to enter the U.S., the CIS officer has two choices: to deny you entry and send you back on the next plane; or to admit you for a very short period of time (usually 30 days). If the latter case, you will be issued a Form I-515 that requires you to submit proper documents to your local CIS Office before the expiration date on your I-94. The time you spend explaining to the CIS officer why you do not have proper documents will not be pleasant, so please make sure you have what you need before you leave.

Do not attempt to enter the U.S. in the wrong visa class with the intention of changing it to the correct one later. Some people enter the U.S. in the wrong visa class because it is easier, or faster, or they are not sure they will be able to get the proper visa. They then plan to change to the proper visa class after they arrive in the U.S. Examples: entering the U.S. as a tourist when the real intention is to enroll as a student or to change to J or H class in order to work. Generally this is considered visa fraud, and the CIS will examine very closely any application to change visa class under these circumstances. In addition, you cannot work until you have obtained the proper visa class and the necessary approval. Therefore, it is imperative that you enter in the proper visa class to avoid long delays and possible unpleasant exchanges with CIS.

Special Caution to Canadian Citizens

If you are a Canadian citizen and are not entering the U.S. as a tourist, be certain to present the proper visa document to the Immigration Officer when entering the U.S. EVEN IF THE IMMIGRATION OFFICER DOES NOT ASK TO SEE THEM. Make sure that you are issued an I-94 card with the proper visa classification noted on it. If you do not present the visa document to the Immigration Officer for validation, you will have entered the U.S. as a tourist and will not be allowed to work until you have obtained approval to have your visa class changed.If you are attempting to reenter in TN status, remember that the TN requires that you have an intention to return to Canada.

Traveling Abroad for 5 Months or More (F1)

If you are a WSU student who held F-1 visa status in the U.S. and currently you are studying abroad or on a leave of absence, THIS NOTICE APPLIES TO YOU. You need to know your absence from the U.S. affects your visa status and future employment opportunities in the U.S. An F-1 student who has been absent from the U.S. for more than five consecutive months is considered by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) to have abandoned his/her F-1 status. Reentry into the U.S. as an F-1 student after a five-month or longer absence is considered an initial, completely new, admission and requires the issuance of a new I-20 Form. DO NOT, repeat do not, attempt to use the I-20 form already in your possession. Use only the new I-20 form we will send you t your request.

When you return to WSU, you must bring your passport and visa documents to our office for us to check. We will review your documentation for any errors that the immigration officials may have made when processing your entry. In addition, please be advised that students who have abandoned their F-1 status postpone their eligibility for any benefits (such as practical training employment) which require an individual to be a full-time student in valid nonimmigrant status for nine months. These benefits are unavailable to students who have abandoned their F-1 status until they have completed a new nine-month course of study.

Things to do Before You Leave

This list is a collection of some (but certainly not all) of the things that international visitors should plan on taking care of before leaving for their home countries permanently or for an extended visit.

  • Fill out forwarding address forms at the US Post Office as soon as you have an address.
  • Request change of address cards from the US post office and the WSU Registrar. Keep UCIE (E 190 Student Union) informed of any US address. Also, inform your department and place of residence of your forwarding address. (Not all US mail will be forwarded!)
  • Have your phone disconnected and pay all your phone charges.
  • Call your long distance phone company to be sure all of your long distance calls have been paid for.
  • Clear all your other expense accounts or have a trusted friend take care of them. Remember, you are the one responsible for monies owed on these accounts.
  • Close your bank accounts. With checking accounts, make sure that all checks have been cashed with sufficient funds before closing the account and that savings accounts are taken care of.
  • File any health and accident or auto insurance claims that are still outstanding.
  • Sell your car if you have one, and take care of the title. Remember to remove your parking sticker. If you have a bicycle you wish to sell, sell it before leaving.
  • Clear up any unpaid WSU bills so your diploma and/or transcripts can be released. Check with the Registrar for forwarding addresses. Also, inform your department of changes.
  • Order transcripts if you will need them. If you are returning home, order and pay for extras if there is a charge so you will not need to get foreign currency for them after you return home. Also ask for a transcript to be made AFTER the degree is granted and so stated on the transcript.
  • Leave forwarding address and/or permanent address at the Alumni Office.
  • Leave your permanent address with your department, faculty advisor, and others who might wish to be in contact with you.
  • Return departmental and other keys if you have any.
  • Make plans for checking out of your dorm room or apartment. Leave forwarding address with the manager or front desk. Return your keys and request the return of your security deposit.
  • If you are taking a computer or other such equipment home, take care of the necessary customs requirements. Consult your embassy or consulate to determine what customs regulations you will need to consider when taking your belongings home. Look into electrical connections and conversions.
  • Ask the post office about the shipping regulations to your home country. Inquire about special book rates.
  • Obtain airplane tickets and check with the airlines for specific regulations on the weight and size of suitcases, excess baggage, air freight, and costs. Check on the new strict regulations regarding carry-ons. If you are not checking your baggage through to your ultimate destination, be sure to ask what baggage regulations are for intermediate stops. Look into baggage insurance and keep VERY DETAILED information on the contents of each bag.
  • Arrange for transportation to the Airport. Contact the International Center for ideas if you need assistance.
  • If you have unneeded household items (pillows, blankets and other linens, pots and pans, irons, brooms, lamps, etc.) consider giving these to the WSU at the UCIE office for use by new students and scholars who will be arriving at WSU after your departure.

Visiting Canada or Mexico

Prior to traveling to Canada or Mexico international students and scholars must obtain an endorsement on their I-20 or DS-2019 at the University Center for International Education (UCIE) from the International Student Adviser. To obtain the required signature, bring your I-20 or DS-2019 to the UCIE and leave the form with the International Student Adviser with a request for his or her endorsement for your travel. The authorization is given provided the student has maintained visa status through full time enrollment. Some students go to Canada or Mexico to get their student visas (in the passport) extended, however, it is not necessary to have a current F-1 or J-1 visa to re-enter the US from Canada or Mexico. "Automatic Revalidation" of your previous visa will be accepted in such cases by the US Immigration Office border official. If you want to apply for a new F-1 or J-1 visa before returning to the US, make an appointment in advance at a US consulate in Mexico or Canada by calling 1-900-433-3131 or 1-888-840-00032.

PLEASE NOTE: If you make an application for a new visa at a US consulate in Canada, you will be ineligible to use "automatic revalidation". Please consider also, that even if you may be eligible for "automatic revalidation," you may still be subject to significant delays at the Canadian (or Mexican) border to the US due to the your field of study being on the Technology Alert List or for a security check or "clearance". You should check with your international student adviser to see if this may be an issue in your case. Also keep in mind that "automatic revalidation" is not available to individuals from a country which the US Department of State has declared a State sponsoring terrorism. For more information about the arrangements necessary to apply for a visa in Canada or Mexico, visit the Bureau of Consular Affairs web-site at: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en.html.

You are also advised to obtain an application for a Canadian visitor visa. The Canadian border officials will not admit you to enter Canada if you are a citizen from one of the countries required to obtain visa before entering Canada. More information is available on Canadian information page: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/index.asp

Automatic Revalidation of Visas

Note: Keep in mind that "automatic revalidation" is not available to individuals from a country which the US Department of State has declared a terrorist State.

Under certain circumstances, an F-1 student with an expired visa may re-enter the United States as though the visa were still valid. An expired F-1 visa may be considered to be automatically extended to the date of application for readmission to the United States (and therefore the visa in the passport need not have an expiration date that is in the future), provided the F-1 student does the following:

  • applies for readmission to the United States after an absence not exceeding 30 days solely in Canada, Mexico or adjacent islands other than Cuba;
  • has maintained and intends to resume status as an F-1student;
  • presents (or is the accompanying spouse or child of an alien who presents) a valid Form I-94 and either a properly endorsed Form I-20ID (page 4 of Form I-20A-B), if there has been no substantive change in the information contained in items 4,5,7 or 8 on the most recent Form I-20A-B, or a new Form I-20A-B, if there have been substantive changes in that information;
  • possesses a valid passport (unless exempt from passport requirements); and
  • applies for readmission within the authorized period of initial admission or extension of stay.

Furthermore, a person who entered in the United States in a classification other than F-1 student, may be considered to have the previous visa automatically revalidated and converted to an F-1 visa if he or she meets the conditions stated above. Thus, under these circumstances, a returning F-1 student whose visa has expired may be saved the necessity of applying for a new visa. A student whose visa has been cancelled or has applied unsuccessfully for a visa is not eligible for automatic visa revalidation. Individuals carrying passports issued from within the United States to replace the passport that contains their original non-immigrant visa may qualify for automatic visa revalidation only if they have the old passport in their possession. Citizens of countries that keep old passport upon issuance of a new one are therefore at a disadvantage when traveling to contiguous territories. Also keep in mind that "Automatic revalidation is not available to individuals from a country which the US Department of State has declared a terrorist State."

Traveling to Contiguous Territory and Adjacent Islands

For holders of F and J visa classes who have expired visa stamps in their passports, certain expired visa stamps are considered valid for travel only and solely to "contiguous territory and adjacent islands." Contiguous territory is Canada and Mexico, and adjacent islands are those located in the Caribbean (excluding Cuba). This means that you do not need a new visa stamp to reenter the U.S. after this type of travel. HOWEVER, this exception applies only as indicated below and ALL CRITERIA must be met. Furthermore, this exception may change as the political relationships between the U.S. and other countries change. Always check on the current status of these provisions before you travel. For holders of H and O visa classes who have expired visa stamps in their passports, certain expired visa stamps are considered valid for travel only to Canada and Mexico. The exception does not include travel to adjacent islands and applies only as indicated below and ALL criteria must be met. Again, check on the current status of these provisions before you travel.

Criteria for the Provisions Listed Above

  • The time outside the United States MUST be for less than 30 days, and you must travel only into contiguous territory or adjacent islands. Travel to a third country from Canada, Mexico or an adjacent island is not permitted.
  • You must have in hand and present to the immigration officer a valid unexpired visa document (i.e., I-20, Ds-2019, I-797 approval notice).
  • You must have in hand and present to the immigration officer a valid unexpired passport.
  • You must have maintained F, J, H or O status and must intend to resume this class when you reenter the U.S.
  • You must have a valid I-94 card and apply for reentry before the end of the authorized stay.
  • You must not be considered inadmissible to the U.S. under Section 212(a) or 212(d)(3)(A) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. In other words, if either of the aforementioned notations appears on your expired visa stamp, you are not eligible for readmission. "J" visa holders - please do not confuse these two notations with Section 212(e) that indicates you are subject to the two-year home residence requirement. The Section 212(e) notation on your visa stamp does not affect your eligibility.

NOTE: If traveling to Canada, Mexico or one of the adjacent islands, you certainly must check beforehand as to whether you need a visa stamp to enter those territories.

So what is the action that can result in a foreign national being found to have committed visa fraud? An example may be helpful:
Scenario I

A Chinese national in the second year of her J.D. program wishes to go home at the Winter Break. Her original F-1 visa stamp expired in December of 1998, and a new visa stamp will be required in order to reenter the U.S. Having heard from a friend in China that the U.S. consulate in Beijing has refused to reissue new visa stamps to some persons also wishing to continue their academic programs in the U.S. - the consulate citing either insufficient funding or the possession of immigrant intent as the reason(s) for denying those requests - the WSU student is worried that if she flies from the U.S. back to China she may not be able to obtain a visa stamp to reenter the U.S. She knows, however, that she can get a visa stamp to enter Canada, and even though her U.S. visa stamp has expired, she also knows she can reenter the U.S. as long as she doesn't stay in Canada more than 30 days. So she travels to Canada and holds her I-94 card because she tells the immigration officer she will not be in Canada more than 30 days - which is true. She then flies from Canada to Beijing for two weeks. Once at home, she immediately goes to the U.S. consulate to apply for her visa stamp, but the officer denies her request. Then, even though she believes she has sufficient proof of funding and given she has done everything she can to prove she has non-immigrant intent (her family still lives in Beijing - she may even have a prospective Chinese employer), she returns to Canada and then arrives at the U.S. border with her expired U.S. visa stamp and her I-94 card still showing her status as F-1, D/S.

The INS officer at the port of entry permits the student to reenter the United States, believing that she only has been in Canada and has not left Canada. Has visa fraud occurred? The answer is, "YES." Once the student left Canada for a destination OTHER THAN the United States, the "contiguous territory and adjacent islands" regulations have been violated. If Canada, Mexico or one of the approved adjacent islands is being used as a "launch site" for international travel with an expired U.S. visa stamp, then foreign nationals need to know they are breaking the law. They must return directly to the U.S. from any of the authorized territories - no side trips are permitted. Even if the INS officer readmits her to the U.S. in error or as a result of being misled by the student, the fraudulent admission remains as a permanent part of the student's immigration history. Visa fraud and misrepresentation are basic grounds for denying lawful permanent resident ("Green Card") status. It is also a basis for denying admission on any future trip to the U.S., even if she later obtains a valid visa stamp.

Scenario II

When the Chinese student attempts to reenter the U.S. in Vancouver, the INS officer at the port of entry inspects her travel documents and notices the stamps in her passport indicating a recent entry into China and an even more recent reentry into Canada. Immediately, the INS officer knows the student violated the contiguous territory rule, and the student is forced to return to China. The only way the student can complete her degree at WSU is to be issued a valid visa stamp for reentry to the United States.

Important Consideration

Each of us needs to recognize that being permitted into any country other than our country of citizenship or country of lawful permanent residence is a privilege - NOT A RIGHT. Thus, any time a foreign national chooses to travel abroad knowing s/he will need a new visa stamp to reenter, there IS NO GUARANTEE that 1) the new visa stamp will be issued, or 2) that you will be readmitted at the port of entry. Traveling abroad always carries some degree of risk, and the best thing you can do to insure that you encounter no problems is to carry valid documents with you at all times (including proof of funding if ever asked) and to abide by the laws and regulations governing your non-immigrant status.

Traveling to Canada to Obtain a Visa

Third country nationals wishing to apply for a visa in Canada must call the following number: 1-900-443-3131 to make an appointment at any one of the Consulates. Be prepared, it is very difficult to get through and the cost of the call is about $4 per minute. Calling early in the morning will get you the best results. Alternatively, you may apply for an appointment "on-line" at: http://www.amcits.com/nvars.asp Once scheduled for a visa appointment you can expect the following at particular consulates.

Montreal

It takes approximately 3 business days to get the visa. You must show up, in-person, in the morning, at the U.S. Consulate in Montreal to make an appointment for the following day. On Day #2, you have your appointment and turn in the application and required documentation. You are asked to return the next day (Day #3) to pick up his visa and other documents. The phone number of the U.S Consulate in Montreal is (514) 398-9695; the fax number is (514) 398-0973. Address: 1155 St. Alexandre Street, Montreal.

Ottawa

Students applying in Ottawa must call the consulate well in advance to make an appointment. The consulate only accepts appointments on Tuesdays and Thursdays. You should schedule the appointment as soon as possible. At the appointment, you submit your application and documentation and are asked to return to the consulate at 3:00 p.m. on the following day to pick up the visa and documents. The phone number for the U.S. Consulate in Ottawa is (613) 238-5335, ext. 301. The fax number is (613) 234-2094. Address: 85 Albert Street, Ottawa, Ontario.

Quebec City

The U.S. Consulate in Quebec City accepts walk-in applications on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. You must submit your application and documentation and return in two days to pick up the visa and documents. Therefore, if you apply on Monday, you may pick up your visa on Wednesday; if you apply on Wednesday, you may pick up on Friday. The phone number for the U.S. Consulate in Quebec City is (418) 692-2095; the fax number is (418) 692-4640. Address: 2 Place Terrasse Dufferin C.P. 939, Quebec.

Toronto

They state that it should take 5 business days to process an application, usually too long for many students (and could be longer if the student has to apply late in the week and stay over for the weekend). Recently, students have been able to get their visas in 3 days; so it really depends how busy they are. Students should arrive at the consulate EARLY in the morning (like 6:00 a.m.) to stand in line. Many students arrive before 7:00 a.m. and have been very far back in line. We recommend that you call so as to see what is recommended by the consulate. Applications are accepted between 8;30 a.m.-10:30 a.m. Phone: (416) 595-0228; Fax: (416) 595-0051. Address: 360 University Avenue, Toronto.

In all cases, you should call ahead of time to make sure the consulate will be open and that the procedures have not changed. Another reminder, you must stay in Canada until a decision is made on the application because you must submit, as part of your application, your passport, Form I-20, Form I-94, and copies of financial documentation. There is also a 900 number for visa information for all U.S. Consulates in Canada. If you are calling within the U.S. the number is 900-656-2222. If you are calling from Canada the number is 900-451-6330 (recording) or 900-451-6663 (live voice).

Visa Appointment Reservation System

If you are a temporary visitor to Canada or are currently working, studying, or visiting the USA, you must obtain an appointment to apply for a visa. If you are a Canadian citizen or a Landed Immigrant in Canada from a British Commonwealth country or the Republic of Ireland, you do not need to make an appointment. Simply take your documentation and proof of Citizenship/Landed Immigrant Status and proceed to the Port of Entry.

You can obtain an appointment by using the Visa Appointment Reservation System (VARS). The VARS is a system for booking non-immigrant visa interviews. Interviews may be booked at the U.S Embassy in Ottawa, Canada and selected Consulates and Consulates General in Canada and Mexico.

If you want to make an appointment please visit the Visa Appointment Reservation System website for more information.

Automatic Visa Revalidation

There is a procedure available in the law, known as "automatic visa revalidation," which allows a person with an expired visa to re-enter the United States after a visit to Canada or Mexico, using a valid, unexpired I-94 in place of a visa.

The rules are simple:

  • The person seeking re-entry must be returning from a visit to Canada or Mexico of less than 30 days duration. (Note: This procedure is not available if any other countries are visited while outside the U.S.);
  • The person seeking re-entry must be in possession of a valid, unexpired form I-94. In the case of F and J nonimmigrant's, they must also have a current I-20 or DS-2019, as appropriate; and,
  • The person seeking re-entry must have a valid passport.

Anyone meeting these criteria will be allowed to re-enter the United States as though they had never left. If the person seeking re-entry has had his or her status changed (such as from F-1 to H-1, or B-2 to F-2), then the person will be readmitted in the changed classification as if they had a visa in the proper category. There are certain issues that must be kept in mind before using this procedure. They include:

  • The person applying for re-entry must present an original I-94. This means that you cannot allow the airline (or anyone else) to remove your I-94 when you depart from the U.S.
  • The I-94 presented must be valid. This means that it cannot have expired, or be for an incorrect nonimmigrant status. An example of this would be the case of a visitor (B-2) who is attending school, but who has not received change of status to F-1, but departs and tries to re-enter. In this case, the person would be returning to the U.S. to attend school, but would not have a student (F-1) I-94.
  • The person seeking re-entry must not have violated his or her status when previously in the U.S. If a person entered the U.S. as an F-1, violated status by working, and then tried to re-enter using an F-1 I-94 and an I-20 (and no visa), he or she would be subject to being refused entry.
  • PLEASE NOTE: If you make an application for a new visa at a US consulate in Canada, you will be ineligible to use "automatic revalidation". Please consider also, that even if you may be eligible for "automatic revalidation," you may still be subject to significant delays at the Canadian (or Mexican) border to the US due to the your field of study being on the Technology Alert List or for a security check or "clearance". You should check with your international student adviser to see if this may be an issue in your case. Also keep in mind that "automatic revalidation" is not available to individuals from a country which the US Department of State has declared a State sponsoring terrorism.

For more information about the arrangements necessary to apply for a visa in Canada or Mexico, visit the Bureau of Consular Affairs web-site at: https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en.html. The specific legal authority for this provision is found at Title 22, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 41.112(d), and is quoted below in its entirety: [ 22 C.F.R. 41.112(d)]

(D) Automatic Extension of Validity at Ports of Entry

  1. Provided that the requirements set out in paragraph (d)(2) of this section are fully met, the following provisions apply to nonimmigrant aliens seeking readmission at ports of entry:
    1. The validity of an expired nonimmigrant visa issued under INA 101(a)(15) may be considered to be automatically extended to the date of application for readmission, and
    2. In cases where the original nonimmigrant classification of an alien has been changed by INS to another nonimmigrant classification, the validity of an expired or unexpired nonimmigrant visa may be considered to be automatically extended to the date of application for readmission, and the visa may be converted as necessary to that changed classification.
  2. The provisions in paragraph (d)(1) of this section are applicable only in the case of a nonimmigrant alien who:
    1. Is in possession of a Form I-94. Arrival-Departure Record, endorsed by INS to show an unexpired period of initial admission or extension of stay, or, in the case of a qualified F or J student or exchange visitor or the accompanying spouse or child of such an alien, is in possession of a current Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, or Form IAP-66 (now DS-2019), Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status, issued by the school the student has been authorized to attend by INS, or by the sponsor of the exchange program in which the alien has been authorized to participate by INS, and endorsed by the issuing school official or program sponsor to indicate the period of initial admission or extension of stay authorized by INS;
    2. Is applying for readmission after an absence not exceeding 30 days solely in contiguous territory, or, in the case of a student or exchange visitor or accompanying spouse or child meeting the stipulations of paragraph (d)(2)(i) of this section, after an absence not exceeding 30 days in contiguous territory or adjacent islands other than Cuba;
    3. Has maintained and intends to resume nonimmigrant status;
    4. Is applying for readmission within the authorized period of initial admission or extension of stay;
    5. Is in possession of a valid passport; and
    6. Does not require authorization for admission under INA 212(d)(3).
  3. The provisions in paragraphs (d)(1) and (d)(2) of this section shall not apply to nationals of Iraq. (Now individuals from countries considered by the US Government to be state sponsors of terrorism may not be eligible for automatic visa revalidation) [53 FR 9110, 9172, Mar. 21, 1988; 55 FR 46028, Oct. 31, 1990]

Fact Sheet update to Automatic Revalidation (PDF)